By Jess Keniston
The moment one opens a computer or switches on the TV, they are bombarded by the face of Hillary Clinton. Many campaigns in Clinton’s favor scream, “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE,” implying that in nominating a female president, America has emerged victorious in the battle for women’s rights. Clinton’s feminism, as analyzed through a liberal feminist framework, is effective because she subverts male domination and works for women’s rights. However, many do not agree with her feminist standing.
On Clinton’s official campaign website, a quote emblazons the top of a page titled “Women’s rights and opportunity.” It reads: “I am a proud lifelong fighter for women’s issues, because I firmly believe what’s good for women is good for America.” In claiming this, Hillary implies that electing her as president will induce radical change in women’s rights. This statement is bought by some. For example, Clare Foran writes, “Clinton can claim a feminist victory by virtue of winning the nomination,” and quotes television producer Shonda Rhimes when she calls Clinton “a one-woman feminist revolution,” claiming that Hillary is creating real change for women. Judith Lorber claims, “The presence of a woman head of state does not necessarily represent a triumph of feminism, as most women politicians do not represent themselves as champions of women but as leaders of everyone. Feminist political and legal changes are much more likely to come from grassroots political movements and feminist organizations.” In fighting for women’s rights, Hillary may claim that she is a feminist, but will be unable to induce radical change for women while attempting to appeal to everyone.
However, many do not buy the argument that Hilary’s victory in securing the Democratic nomination is a feminist triumph or that she has the right to call herself a feminist at all. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani scoffs at Hillary’s “feminist” standing, accusing that she and her husband take “millions of dollars in speaking fees from dictators, oppressors; from people who discriminate against women to people who run countries where women can’t drive cars,” referring to the millions of dollars Clinton received from Saudi Arabia (Schow). Furthermore, Rex Murphy refutes any claim that Clinton has shattered the “glass ceiling”—a concept that Lorber defines as assuming “that women have the motivation, ambition, and capacity for positions of power and prestige, but hidden barriers keep them from reaching the top” (35). Murphy argues that Clinton has simply ridden on the coattails of her powerful husband and that “real” feminists gain success by themselves, without help from men. Based on these arguments, Clinton cannot be a true feminist while failing to embody feminist ideals. As Radical feminist theory states, women must “unite…in struggle,” and that no real change can happen until men “give up their male privileges and support women’s liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own” (Redstockings 131). Although nominating a woman as president is a great leap from the days where women were denied even the ability to vote, I believe that nominating a woman means the same thing for feminist triumph as electing a Black president did for African American triumph. This victory does not mean that the fight for women’s rights is won, or that it is remotely close to over. Hillary may address some feminist issues, but it is crucial to keep fighting for equity. Full disclose: I do feel a sense of empowerment hearing that a woman’s place is in the White House.